I've seen and heard many stories of people suffering their health because they do not have the means to access health care services. Many women are dying because of childbirth complications which are highly preventable. When I joined the Universal Health Care Study Group, I came closer to the issues.
Why is it important to me? It's because healthcare is a right - of every Filipino, rich or poor, with resources or none, PhilHealth member or not. It is a human right. More people are dying because they do not have access to affordable and quality health care. Health professionals dream of leaving the country instead of serving here because they are overworked but greatly underpaid. In addition to that, many health professionals felt unappreciated as well.
In all these Town Hall Assemblies, I have come to realize certain things that makes realize how important it is to have Universal Health Care in the Philippines:
Medicine is Health. Many of the people who attended thinks that access to essential medicines is in fact access to health or "health". When I ask the people what is health for them, most often they would associate it with "getting medicines". Only a very few of them would even think about prevention or promotion of healthy lifestyle. Still the predominant view of being 'healthy' is getting medicines for one's illness. Access to medicines and timely supply & replenishment is also important to many of them.
Money is Health. People believe that if you have money, you will be treated well. But if you don't, then you suffer from poor service and last in the priority list. Many of them felt generally of the same in different levels of health service. According to them, it will also change how health professionals in public hospitals & health centers would treat their patients.
Lack of knowledge in Health Insurance. Many of the attendees in the community town halls would express their lack of sufficient knowledge about their health insurance, specifically PhilHealth. They would not know its coverage or what diseases it will cover. They do not even know about "No Balance Billing" for sponsored members. Some of them have used their PhilHealth services but said that reimbursement takes a very long time.
Dilapidated health facilities. Apart from health services, a pressing issue among the community people are the health facilities. They reported that there are some facilities which has poor lighting, ventilation, or have old edifices. Lack of beds in public hospital tends to have transients of four in one bed. Supplies would also be another concern that comes along unhealthy facilities. All these contribute to an ineffective health care system.
Corruption in the health system. Another main issue the people cited is the grave corruption happening both in the local government and in the health system as well. Many said that there are some funds allocated for health but were corrupted by local officials. They also said that corruption impedes development in the health system, employment of appropriate number of health professionals and improving of facilities.
"We can. If we help the government and if we start among ourselves."